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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Champagne Wishes and "Cranberry" Dreams

This Sunday Jukebox entry is all about dreams.  Dreams are something that we all have in our lives.  I don’t know a single person in the world who doesn’t have a dream that they wanted to achieve.  Whether or not those dreams actually come true is another issue altogether.  The point is that we all have them.

I think it’s obvious to most of you reading this blog that my dream is to be known for my writing.  I would definitely love to make a career in writing, and have people take notice of my thoughts and ideas.  I guess in some ways, starting up this blog has helped me achieve part of that dream, and I’ve certainly gotten some positive feedback as a result of it.  Now, if I can only find a way to make money doing what I love, I would be all set.  But, that part remains a dream.

Can you imagine how depressing the world would be if our dreams did not come true?  Disney would cease to exist if dreams disappeared from the world.  Why, people have dreamed of going to Disney World for eons since the park was built!  And, think of all the products that we would be without had someone not had a dream to make life better?  We wouldn’t have automobiles, airplanes, microwave ovens, computers, the Shticky...

...well, okay, let’s scratch that last one.

And, if you want a supreme example of how dreams have made the world a better place, you need not look any further than the poignant speech that Martin Luther King Jr. Made on August 28, 1963.  The “I Have A Dream” speech remains one of the most inspirational speeches ever given in American history, and if you click on this link, you can read the transcript of this speech.

Now, what does the topic of dreams have to do with the blog entry for today?

Keeping in step with the Irish themed weekend, I thought that I would tell the story of an Irish band that had dreams.  The band had dreams of making it big in the world of music, and ended up making their dreams come true.  Though their success waned in recent years, in 2010, they reunited once again to give it another go.

The story begins in 1989, in the Irish community of Limerick.  Two brothers, Noel and Mike Hogan, formed a band known as “The Cranberry Saw Us”.  Mike was the bass player of the band, while Noel played guitar.  Rounding out the band was drummer Fergal Lawler, and lead singer Niall Quinn.

For a few months, the band played together, but in early 1990, the band hit a roadblock when Niall Quinn decided that the band wasn’t right, and quit.  The three remaining members were stuck, as they were now without a lead singer.  And without a lead singer, the dream they had to make it big in the world of music would not come true.

So, they immediately put together an ad looking for a new female lead singer for their group, hoping that fate would bring them someone who worked well with them, and who had natural, but raw talent.

Fate brought the band Dolores O’Riordan.

She arrived at her audition and immediately started writing song lyrics to previous demo tapes that the band had recorded prior.  Dolores returned with a set of lyrics that the band absolutely loved, and hired her on the spot.

Those lyrics, by the way, were a rough draft of the song “Linger”, which would be a song that brought the band later success in the mid-90s.  But, I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself.

Shortly after O’Riordan was hired, “The Cranberry Saw Us” recorded a homemade demo tape, and started selling copies of it.  Their first effort did well for a band just starting out, and they managed to sell three hundred copies.  For a demo tape, this was decent.  Following this, the band opted for a name change.  Instead of The Cranberry Saw Us, they shortened their name to simply “The Cranberries”.  A second demo tape was made, and this time, the band had sent the tape out to various record companies based out of the UK.

The tape had been recorded at the Xeric studios, which were owned by the man who would later become The Cranberries’ first manager, Pearse Gilmour.  The demo tape the band made got a lot of attention in the British press, as several record companies actually got into a bidding war over who would sign the band!

Definitely a great sign for The Cranberries.  I mean, I think most people would be proud to garner so much interest in their talent and work, and I can just imagine the band giddy with excitement over the bidding wars!

In the end, the band opted to take a deal with Island Records, the same record company that helped launch U2, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and Robert Palmer to mainstream success.  This was supposed to be a great new beginning for The Cranberries, but almost immediately after they started recording their first EP entitled “Uncertain”, the band began to fall out with their manager.  After a series of recording sessions that proved to be a complete disaster, the band and Gilmour reached a breaking point, and in early 1992, the band fired their manager.

Fortunately, this move ended up being a good move for the band.  Just two months after Gilmour was shown the door, the band hired a new manager, Geoff Travis, in March 1992, and with their new manager and assistance from famed record producer Stephen Street, the band went to work re-recording the material for their first album.  During this time, the band also did some touring in Britain, Scotland, and of course, Ireland to promote their music further.

And in September 1992, The Cranberries achieved yet another dream.  That was the month that they released their first single...a single with an appropriate title.

ARTIST: The Cranberries
SONG: Dreams
ALBUM: Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?
DATE RELEASED: September 29, 1992

“Dreams” was a song that did eventually garner moderate success worldwide, although it did take a while for it to make an impact.  “Dreams” was released six months prior to the band’s debut album “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?”, in the spring of 1993.  A second single, “Linger” (which you might recall was the very song that helped Dolores O’Riordan secure her spot in the band as lead singer) was also released around this time, but initially failed to make much of an impact on the charts.  Although both “Dreams” and “Linger” were both decent songs, which sounded quite different from the hip-hop and grunge acts that dominated the charts in early 1993, the band struggled to make a dent in the charts.

That is until the band decided to go on tour in support of another band, Suede.  Their participation in the tour caused MTV to take notice, and almost immediately, the band’s music videos found themselves in heavy rotation on the network.  In the case of “Dreams”, viewers were lucky, as over the course of two years, three different versions of the music video were filmed.

(The version of the song that I posted was version number two.)

Because of the band’s success on MTV, The Cranberries ended up seeing their singles re-released in 1994.  “Linger” was re-released in February 1994, and the “Dreams” re-release came three months later in May.  The songs charted much higher in the UK the second time around, and in the United States and Canada, listeners got their first taste of The Cranberries in 1994.  Both “Dreams” and “Linger” had moderate success on the Billboard charts, but did much better on the “Airplay” charts, with “Dreams” peaking at #14. 

In many ways, 1994 could very well have been the year of The Cranberries.  They had finally been recognized for their musical contributions.  They embarked on their first North American tour.  They were one of the headlining performers for the 1994 revival of the Woodstock music festival.  Dolores O’Riordan achieved a personal high when she married tour manager Don Burton in July of that year.  And, in the fall of 1994, the band released their second album, “No Need To Argue”. 

The band’s sophomore effort proved to be even more successful than their first.  Singles from the band’s second album included “Zombie” (#1 in the UK), “Ode To My Family”, “I Can’t Be With You”, and “Ridiculous Thoughts”, and by the end of 1995, “No Need To Argue” had sales of triple platinum...higher than the band’s debut.

However, just one year later, the band’s popularity on the charts began to decline.  The band’s third album, 1996’s “To The Faithful Departed” was a mild departure from their initial style.  Gone were the dreamy melodies of “Linger” and “Dreams”, and in their place a harder rock edge.  And certainly, the album’s first single, “Salvation” reflected this change.  Other singles from the album included “Free To Decide” and “When You’re Gone”, but both of those singles didn’t have as huge of an impact as their songs from their previous album.  It wasn’t that the songs were terrible...far from it.  I just think that by 1996, the new style wasn’t exactly what the general public gravitated towards.  After all, 1996 was the year of the Macarena, the Backstreet Boys, and the Spice Girls, which were topping the charts.  Not exactly the style that The Cranberries were known for. 

Their next two albums also failed to make an impact.  1999’s “Bury The Hatchet” spawned the mildly successful “Promises” (which coincidentally is one of my all-time favourite Cranberries songs, which you can listen to below this paragraph), but other than that, the album bombed.

So did 2001’s “Wake Up And Smell The Coffee”.  Although their 2001 effort reunited the band with Stephen Street, the album only managed to peak at #46 on the Billboard 200, a disappointment when you consider that at their peak, their albums were in the Top 10.  After releasing a greatest hits compilation in 2002, the band split up one year later, almost eleven years to the day that the band’s first single was released.

But, despite the break-up, the various members of the band continued with music.  Dolores O’Riordan, in particular, embarked on a solo career beginning in 2004, and released two solo albums between 2007 and 2009.   But, as we would learn, the band could not stay apart for long, as the group reunited for a North American and European tour in late 2009.  And, in 2012, the band released their sixth studio album, “Roses”.  Since the album was only released last month, it’s too soon to tell whether The Cranberries will once again have major success on the charts, but I think that as long as they enjoy what they are doing (which they seem to be doing), then that’s all that they could ask for.

So, what have we learned by taking a look back on our spotlight of The Cranberries?  Well, one thing we can say is that The Cranberries never gave up on their dreams to be a great success story.  Their road to stardom was not an easy one.  Certainly, their first project was plagued with problems, as well as an unexpected firing of a manager.  By all accounts, the project was set up to fail.  It is to the credit of the band that they pushed through the bad to find the good within.  Their rise to success was very slow going.  It took the band a year and a half since releasing their first single to get noticed.  But once they were, they pulled no punches.  The band worked incredibly hard to get to where they wanted to go, and although it took them some time, they reaped the rewards of a job well done.

And, really...isn’t that the only way to feel success when all of our hard work causes our dreams to come true?  At least, that’s how I like to see it.  But, what do you think about dreams?  Inquiring minds want to know.

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